Chris Cornell

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Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell (20 July 196418 May 2017) was an American guitarist/singer-songwriter most well-known for being the lead singer of the bands Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog. He began his musical career as a drummer, before moving on to become a singer and guitarist.

Quotes[edit]

Euphoria Morning Era[edit]

  • I think Euphoria Morning is an album you can always listen to, even in a couple of years; it isn't dated. That's what I was striving for with every Soundgarden album, something lasting, something you want to listen to, again and again. Since it was always part of my approach it wasn't too difficult to record an album like Euphoria Morning. I didn't have to re-invent myself.
  • I try to solve my problems by writing music and recording albums, but you know what's really funny about that? Once the album becomes a success, it doesn't solve your problems. It just gets harder to write the next album.
  • That shit's really depressing to me. I couldn't watch it. You can't expect to live in some utopia where everybody plays music you like, but it's gotten to the point where noone's playing music you like—at least that's being presented on television... The music channels don't even show much music anymore. They're more interested in documentaries. They're going to start doing documentaries about David Crosby's dog pretty soon.

Soundgarden Era[edit]

  • Somebody can sit at home and say, "What does this guy have to complain about?" But at the same time it's a comfortable chair to be sitting in and make those judgments. When all of a sudden you're successful and sought after overnight, you are instantly opened to a lot of sides of humanity that the average person is never going to see. And those can often be pretty disheartening, and it can make somebody pretty lonely.
  • "Tighter and Tighter" was actually written around the same time as "Black Hole Sun." In fact, I did a demo with four songs on it to play for the band. "Black Hole Sun," "Sounds Like Days," "Tighter and Tighter" and a song called "Anxious." We blew off "Anxious" entirely and recorded "Tighter and Tighter" for the last record. It was the last song we did. It was number 16 and we ran out of studio time. We had the rhythm tracks done and it was just needing vocals and my guitar solos. We just ran out of time. It was falling flat anyway. I changed the arrangement a little bit.
  • Yes. I battle with that all the time. "Let Me Drown" is probably one of the most disturbing songs I've ever written. Usually, if I write lyrics that are bleak or dark, it usually makes me feel better. That one didn't. It made me question whether it was a song that was all right to play. Should we even do this? It was so negative. But that's the only one I can think of that's like that. Otherwise, it's like watching a horror movie: It makes you feel better after feeling worse.
  • Yeah, especially this postmortem trip when people die and then everybody writes about what they felt that person is going through. It's really surprising to me that anyone can think that they have those kinds of insights or spend that much time really worrying about somebody else. I think they should spend more time trying to figure out who they are. That's my whole trip. I can't imagine anybody knowing me through my lyrics, because I don't particularly feel like I know myself. And I have more than the benefit of just lyrics to go on.
  • Not really. I don't even have enough time to pursue everything I want to do musically. Also, there's a lot of people out there who spend a lot of time trying to act, so I think most of the good acting jobs should be reserved for those people.
  • There's always a sense of camaraderie between bands. The only thing that I ever remember that starts to go outside of the normal healthy competition was when Kurt [Cobain] was slamming Pearl Jam. Once you get outside of your local little scene, lot of cases, writers will bait you and lead you down that path as cunningly as they can. I've seen it happen dozens of times. I've had people say, "Well, so-and-so said this about you, what do you say about that?" And they might be misquoting them, or maybe that's not what that person meant, or maybe that person was just in a bad mood. It's provoked out of you. They'll get you in a position where you start firing and they'll throw out little things about different people. But everyone that anyone would know as a successful Seattle band, or even an integral part of the scene, are all friends. Always have been.
  • When Andy [Andrew Wood] died, I couldn't listen to his songs for about two years after that, and it was for that reason — his lyrics often seem as though they can tell that story. But then again, my lyrics often could tell the same one. In terms of seeing everything as a matter of life and death — if that's what you're feeling at the time, then that's what you're going to write. It's sort of a morbid exchange when somebody who is a writer like that dies, and then everyone starts picking through all their lyrics. In Kurt [Cobain]'s case, whatever he was thinking and whatever he was writing, there wasn't an arrow pointing at what his demise was. It's a stream of thought, it's a possibility — it's definitely something that somebody was feeling when they were writing. It doesn't mean that it's going to happen. But it doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't, either.
  • I remember a girl once came up to me after one of our shows, and she had a painting of Andy Wood on the back of her leather coat. She said, "I respect you so much for recording a tribute to Andy Wood, because he was so perfect," and then she walked away. Why would she walk away thinking that? Out of whatever songs he wrote and how he died, how did you get that? His lyrics basically said, line for line, "I'm fucked up." He could have written a song called "I'm Fucked Up", and it would have basically summed up a lot of the lyrics he wrote. And this girl wanders away thinking the guy's perfect.
  • That Guns N' Roses video, the one with the dolphins in it ["Estranged"]. A big chunk of the video is Axl [Rose] coming out of this huge mansion on a hill with a bunch of servants wearing white and him getting into this huge stretch and having a motorcade of police wearing white ice-cream-salesman suits. Who the f--- does he think he is going to honestly connect with besides Donald Trump? Who else is going to give a shit about the fact that he can afford that kind of attention? It goes beyond decadence; it's spitting in the face of the people that have put you there. I was offended by it, and I don't get offended by much.
  • Well, we haven't had what I would understand as the sort of sudden pressure that seems to screw a lot of people up. We've been under pressure for years. Most of the bands I can think of that have had severe problems with success pretty much had their first or second album go over the top, commercial success like we haven't even seen. And for me personally, and to a degree the rest of the band, none of us are really super social in particular. So we're not in situations on a daily basis where being somebody that's famous is going to become really annoying, or you can't go anywhere because everyone recognizes you. I don't go out too much anyway, 'cause I've never really liked crowds or been that comfortable around a lot of people. In that case, I've been really lucky.
  • I couldn't do it. I'd go there, and it just made me sick to think about sitting down and applying myself to the shit they were trying to teach me. Not that it's not useful In a lot of ways, I regret it now, especially in terms of being a writer. I wish I had more skills and knowledge of the language. I have a fairly good vocabulary for how far I went in school, but I always wish it could be better. In a lot of ways, it screwed me up, but I just did not have the attention span for school. My mind would wander, and it would refuse to focus on something that, to me, was devoid of anything exciting or inspiring. A lot of kids really were excited by what they were learning, but I seemed to be a lot better at staring out the window and dreaming.
  • I always had a knack for it [music]. I bought a drum kit for like 50 bucks, and within three weeks I was in a band. Not only was I in a band, but people were saying that I was really good. Being someone with a short attention span who didn't have much patience for anything, that was great, 'cause it didn't take much. I could just sit down and do it instantly. I could play a basic rock beat right away, so it didn't require much patience, and that's probably why I ended up doing it. As I got some of the rewards for it, it fueled me to want to be better. Then the rewards thing gets old, and what you really want is to be good and understand it, 'cause you're so enthused by it. That's what got me into all the other instruments and songwriting and singing. **"Interview with Request Magazine, October 1994". 
  • Asked if Andrew Wood's and Kurt Cobain's deaths affected his attitude to drugs:
  • "No," replies Chris emphatically, "cos that was never the idea. The idea behind the band when we started was we are here to play the music we wanna play and there ain't nothing gonna compromise us. As far as the drugs thing goes, it's no big deal, we just didn't wanna do it. It wasn't a group decision or anything, there was no band meeting where we decided that we weren't gonna do drugs. It's just the fact that, as individuals, we didn't wanna do it. I'm sure that if any of us had wanted to get into that stuff, we woulda done."

MM: And how did you react to the death of your friends? Chris: "The same as anyone else, I guess. I was confused. Like all these crazy things go through your head, the same crazy stuff that through anybody else's. I thought, 'I shoulda seen it coming', I thought, 'Too bad someone with that much talent had to die', I thought, 'Too bad he had a drug problem'. Then I guess I just thought about all the other kids that had died that I'd never hear about. You try to rationalise this shit, but there are no rational ways of looking at stuff like that. People ask me if I learnt anything from it, I don't really think I did because all the lessons that could be learnt, I had already learnt. I knew dope killed, that's why I didn't do it. To give another example, I was being interviewed by this little metal fanzine and this kid says, 'Do you think, now that Magic Johnson has AIDS, you wil lver change your lifestyle on the road and your attitude to sex?' And that made me real angry, the assumption that it would take a f***ing sports star and a huge national hero to contract a disease for me to get the idea that having sex with strangers is dangerous. Do you think that I'm that f***ing stupid, that I'm some kinda dopey cartoon character who'll stick his dick in anything until It either drops off or a national hero dies? Jesus. So these are things that you either learn at a pretty young age, or you never learn. The people that don't learn are dead, I guess, or getting there.**"Interview with Melody Maker, August 26, 1995". 

  • Team Rock: Away from the band [Soundgarden], do you guys still hang out together?

Cornell: Not as much as we used to, because we see each other all the time in the studio, or on tour. But we still go out together quite happily now and again. It's not like we're the Monkees, living in the same house and driving the same car... Actually Alice in Chains did that before they became really successful and I always thought that was really cool. But we've missed our chance now, I suppose.

  • The rest of the band [Soundgarden] thought it was silly of the press to concentrate on the beefcake when I was writing songs, singing, and playing guitar for the band. Even now, some people will stick a paragraph about my hair in the body of a review.
  • A certain scenario kept repeating itself. The people from the magazines would take two or three shots of the band. They’d start to pack up. And then they’d sort of take me off into a corner by myself. After about the thirtieth time that a photographer asked me to take my shirt off, I started to get the picture.
  • Susan [Silver] was really busy with one of her bands, and there was about a month where I never left the house. I didn’t go out in public; I didn’t talk to anyone on the phone—I went a little psycho. If I hadn’t been alone so long, I would not have gone as far as I actually went. But one day, I went from wondering what I would look like with a shaved head to ‘That’s pretty cool.’ Then I put my hair in a big envelope and mailed it off to my wife. The funny thing was, I did this really silly, personal thing for no reason, and then all of a sudden it was on MTV News and in Newsweek, and I still hadn’t left the house. I thought it was strange, because I don’t know how anyone found out about my hair, and I don’t know why they cared.
  • On why he shaved his head in 1993 **. Interview with Details Magazine, December 1996.
  • Susan [Silver] gives me a huge amount of room to be that recluse, and also the incentive to not be. It’s worth a lot to see her be excited about being around someone who’s not afraid of his shadow. It’s good for her. She digs it. But we’re becoming more alike. When she comes home to me from a day at the office, where she’s talking to people from all over the world about all sorts of important things... well, I probably haven’t answered the phone in seventy-two hours. She knows that when she comes home she’s going to get privacy, because I’m not like ‘These are my South American friends and... honey, have you ever really listened to that first Van Halen album?’ She’s the best roommate I’ve ever had. People are sort of perplexed, as to how this could possibly work in this grunge-music, super-druggy era where everybody is so emotionally screwed up. Not only is Soundgarden not OD’ing on heroin, but the singer’s wife manages the band, there’s no weird Yoko Ono trip, and she’s not trying to make us dress up like lions and unicorns.
  • When asked if intimacy is an issue in his marriage to Soundgarden's manager Susan Silver **. Interview with Details Magazine, December 1996.
  • When you write your own lyrics, you tend to be over-analytical. One second everything you do is brilliant, and the next, everything is garbage, and I want to be able to express personal things without being made to feel stupid. One of the first times I remember writing something personal was on tour. I was feeling really freaky and down, and I looked in the mirror and I was wearing a red T-shirt and some baggy tennis shorts. I remember thinking that as bummed as I felt, I looked like some beach kid. And then I came up with that line—’I’m looking California / And feeling Minnesota,’ from the song ‘Outshined’—and as soon as I wrote it down, I thought it was the dumbest thing. But after the record came out and we went on tour, everybody would be screaming along with that particular line when it came up in the song. The was a shock. How could anyone know that that was one of the most personally specific things I had ever written? It was just a tiny line. But somehow, maybe because it was personal, it just pushed that button.
  • No, I thing that's the worst f**king thing. I mean, can you imagine having to get up at 4am and sit in a trailer while someone puts makeup on you? Then stand in front of a camera and say the same lines 60 times. I feel sorry for actors and I never want to do it. I stood in front of a camera in Singles and that's about it.
  • When asked if he ever considered acting as a career **. Kerrang! Magazine, March 1, 1997.
  • It was given to me by the late Shannon Hoon, who fashioned it out of a fork he got in Denny's (a US fast food chain) on the first tour Blind Melon ever did, which was opening for us. I really liked it, but I stopped wearing it after he died. Because the other thing I wore was this ring that belonged to Andy Wood, who died. It's like, 'I don't wanna wear these f**king things from people who died.' A girl outside the hotel tonight had a similar fork, and I've had people throw them on-stage. I've seen hundreds of those forks, but it always reminds me of Shannon. They're making them cos they're thinking of me, but really it's him. Which is cool.
  • When asked about the fork necklace that he wore for several years **. Kerrang! Magazine, March 1, 1997.
  • Don't drink. And that's serious. For me, that's one, because I never wrote, I was never creative while drinking, and there were these periods of not drinking and just kind of white-knuckling it and writing and recording, and then drinking a lot and coming into the studio hung over and being in the studio drunk and never being able to do anything to the level or to the degree that I thought that I should be. I'm proud of everything that I did, but I think it was a lot more difficult than it needed to be.
  • I really had to come to the conclusion, the sort of humbling conclusion that, guess what, I'm no different than anybody else, I've got to sort of ask for help not something I ever did, ever. And then part two of that is, like, accept it when it comes and, you know, believe what people tell me. And trusting in what I have been told, and then seeing that work.
  • I just read some quotes where Dave Grohl is talking about the Foo Fighters taking a hiatus of an undetermined length, saying, 'I want to be in this band forever, and that's why we need to take a break.' That's perfectly described. Did we need to split up and tell the world and the fans we're splitting up? Probably not. It was time to take a breather from the business.
  • My first memory of Nirvana was getting a cassette of demos, which ended up becoming Bleach. Everybody's response was that this was an amazing band and these were amazing songs. It was another indication that the Northwest had something special that you couldn't argue with.

It was pretty shocking to see a threepiece that sounded like that, and trying to get inside the head of a guy who writes a song like "Floyd the Barber" – where does the kernel of a song like that start?

The Seattle scene benefitted from an MTV culture, and it was because of the way Nirvana looked and presented themselves that created this kind of unanimous support worldwide. Rock music had become kind of hedonistic – 35-year-old men taking a helicopter to the stage and dating supermodels, and going out of their way to separate themselves from their audience. Nirvana, more than any other band, rocked way harder, had significant originality, while looking like guys you went to high school with. I think that was their secret. There was an inclusion that was long overdue, and it was what rock was supposed to be about.

The legend isn't simply going to be the way that he took his life; I believe it will always be the songs.

  • What ends up happening with musicians and actors is, they're famous, so when somebody has an issue, it's something that gets talked about. People die of drug overdoses every day that nobody talks about. It's a shame that famous people get all the focus, because it then gets glorified a little bit, like, 'This person was too sensitive for the world,' and, 'A light twice as bright lives half as long,' and all that. Which is all bullshit. It's not true.

Temple of the Dog Era[edit]

  • Right after Andy died, we [Soundgarden] went to Europe, and it was horrible, because I couldn't talk about it, and there was no one who had loved him around. I wrote two songs, "Reach Down" and "Say Hello 2 Heaven". That was pretty much how I dealt with it. When we came back, I recorded them right away. They seemed different from what Soundgarden naturally does, and they seemed to fit together. They seemed like music he would like. I got the idea to release them as a single, and to get at least Stone and Jeff, or all of Love Bone, to play on it. I had the idea for a couple days, then, with an artist's lack of self-confidence, I decided it was a stupid idea. Somehow those guys heard the tape, and they were really, really excited. Stone and Jeff and our drummer, Matt, had been working on a demo for what ended up being Pearl Jam, so we had the idea that we would make an EP or a record, and maybe even do some of Andy's solo songs.
  • With all that’s been written about Temple of the Dog recently, it’s reminded me of the original meanings of those songs. Say Hello 2 Heaven, for example, was one of the songs I wrote directly for Andy Wood and the amount of times someone has requested I play that song for someone else who’s died have been numerous. That’s great that it’s become this anthem that makes somebody feel some comfort when they’ve lost someone, but recently I’ve become a little more possessive of the idea that this song was actually written for a specific guy and I haven’t forgotten that person. So I’ve been reminding myself and those in the audience where that song came from.

Solo career Era[edit]

  • I think that in a lot of ways the Seattle scene was a turn-the-gun-on-itself scene. It was being born out of the punk rock bible, where being a rock star is a bad thing. So we couldn't enjoy our success because we weren't really supposed to. You had to pretend success was fucked. We all became very self-conscious. I wish now that we'd had a better attitude about it.
  • We weren't that close. I'd had friends die before that. And even the way that he did it, it was kind of a twist, but other than that, I'd been through it before. But it's a shame, and it's a shame for his daughter, for one, and it's a shame for fans. But really it's a personal thing, and it was a drag. I wish it didn't happen. And I also think like if he had just kind of hung on for six months, who knows, six months later he could've been a completely different guy.
  • I’ve lost a lot of young, brilliant friends. Andy Wood and Layne [Staley] and Jeff Buckley, who was a good friend, and Kurt [Cobain], and Shannon Hoon [of Blind Melon] was a friend, and Mike Starr [Alice In Chains] was a friend, the list can kind of go on if I sit here and try and remember. And they’re all young and these guys all had limitless potential in their lives in front of them. And I think there’s something so inspiring about that – that is like the miracle of youth. And to see that be the final chapter so young is a really hard thing to swallow every time.
  • I remember seeing how Layne [Staley] reacted to Andy [Andrew Wood] dying from drugs, and I think that he was scared possibly. And I think he also reacted the same way when Kurt [Cobain] shot himself. They were really good friends. And yet it didn’t stop him. But for me, if I think about the evolution of my life as it appears in songs for example, Higher Truth is a great example of a record I wouldn’t have been able to write [when I was younger], and part of that is in essence because there was a period of time there where I didn’t expect to be here. And now not only do I expect to be here, and I’m not going anywhere, but I’ve had the last 12 years of my life being free of substances to kind of figure out who the substance-free guy is, because he’s a different guy. Just by brain chemistry, it can’t be avoided. I’m not the same, I don’t think the same, I don’t react the same. And my outlook isn’t necessarily the same. My creative endeavours aren’t necessarily the same. And one of the great things about that is it enabled me to kind of keep going artistically and find new places and shine the light into new corners where I hadn’t really gone before. And that feels really good. But it’s also bittersweet because I can’t help but think, what would Jeff be doing right now, what would Kurt be doing right now, what would Andy be doing? Something amazing, I’m sure of it. And it would be some music that would challenge me to lift myself up, something that would be continually raising the bar so that I would work harder too, in the same way they affected me when they were alive basically.
    • When asked if there was a lesson to be learned from those friends' deaths caused by substance abuse and if it was not enough to scare everyone **. The Life & Times of Chris Cornell. Rolling Stone Australia (17 September 2015).

Audioslave Era[edit]

  • Everything's different. You have to recognise the fact that I'm different. Time goes on, and you change. I'm coming into this as a different guy, that's probably the biggest thing.
  • It's definitely a different world. Smoking is bad for your voice, for sure, but you learn to function in that world of bad. Now I'm in better shape, and I'm much more physical onstage, but I have to watch getting winded. Once I'm winded, I don't sing right. I would have smoked three cigarettes already during this interview [laughs].
  • Oddly enough, I was in Paris, the last show of a Soundgarden tour. I didn't know him that well, but I had friends who were trying to talk to him and it wasn't working out. I had this idea that when I got home, I'd try and sit down with him.
  • I had a bad PCP [angel dust] experience when I was 14 and I got panic disorder. And of course, I wasn’t telling anyone the truth. It’s not like you go to your dad or your doctor and say, “Yeah, I smoked PCP and I’m having a bad time.” So I became more or less agoraphobic because I’d have flashbacks. From 14 to 16, I didn’t have any friends. I stayed home most of the time. Up till then life was pretty great. The world was big and I felt I could do anything I wanted. Suddenly, I felt like I couldn’t do anything. But in the isolation, my imagination really had time to run. I never did any drugs until my late 20s. Unfortunately, being a child of two alcoholics, I started drinking a lot, and that’s what eventually got me back into drugs. You often hear that pot leads to harder drugs. But I think alcohol is what leads you to everything, because it takes away the fear. The worst drug experimentation I ever did was because I was drunk and didn’t care.
  • At first to prescription medication and then to pretty much everything. I’d had several years of being in control of my alcoholism. I was pretty reliable; I took care of business. And then when my personal life got out of hand, I just got loaded. So I went through a couple of years of depression again. I didn’t eat, I drank a lot, I started taking pills, and at some point you just get sick of it. I was pretty sure that nothing like that would ever happen to me. Then I ended up having as bad a problem as anyone’s going to have and still be alive. So I realized I’m not special. I’m just like everybody else.

On his family[edit]

  • I annoyed the shit out of them [my parents] by spending my whole childhood beating on things. I drove them to distraction and I never thought they'd give me a drumkit in a million years. By the time I was 15 my mom had just about given up on me. But she must have figured that at least I had an interest in something other than drugs or being a criminal, so she bought me a snare drum. After a couple of days whacking that, I bought the rest of the kit for $50 from a guy I knew. Two weeks later I was in my first band.
  • Kerrang!: Clare Sharp from Glasgow would like to know what you thought of your mum's appearance in Kerrang! last August [1996] - predicting the future for ten rock stars?

Cornell: Well, if she's gonna predict things, it seems like she would be really good at the stock market or something. But she is my mom, and she's a really good mom - so if she gives advice, it's good advice.

  • I have two brothers, one of them was older, he was the guy I thought was the coolest person on earth. I was a little guy and he would beat the shit out of anybody who would fuck with me and sometimes I had to actually beg him not to beat someone up just in case I ran into that person when he wasn't around... He also introduced me to a lot of music and he's a singer-songwriter as well, I'm going to bring him out. This is my brother Peter!

On depression and suicide[edit]

  • I think we all carry a depressive streak in us but most people just hide it. A lot of people think that entertainment has to be something loud, cheerful and happy. I don't buy into it. Depression can be very inspiring. At least for me it can be. The quiet aspects of life are very important, because let's face it, life is pretty difficult.
  • I think everybody, no matter how rich or poor, how young or old, has a phase in his life when he's depressive. It's reality. Not a lot of people want to talk about it. Most people rather hide that fact, but it's just one of the facts of life that absolutely fascinates me.
  • I used to work in jobs I hated because I needed the money to buy a guitar. I know what it feels like to be depressed. On the other hand, I also know what it feels like to have money, to be successful, to be independent, but I can tell you that money and success never solve your problems.
  • I've always liked depressing music because a lot of times listening to it when you're down can actually make you feel less depressed. Also, even though a person may have problems with depression, sometimes you can actually be kind of comfortable in that space because you know how to operate within it.

Guitar.com: Do you perceive run-of-the-mill depression as a comfort zone?

  • Cornell: The problem is, no one really knows what run-of-the-mill depression is. You'll think somebody has run-of-the-mill depression, and then the next thing you know, they're hanging from a rope. It's hard to tell the difference. But I do feel that depression can be useful. Sometimes it's just chemical. It doesn't seem to come from anywhere. And whenever I've been in any kind of depression, I've over the years tried to not only imagine what it feels like to not be there, but try to remind myself that I could just wake up the next day and it could be gone because that happens, and not to worry about it. And at the same time, when I'm feeling great, I remember the depression and think about the differences in what I'm feeling and why I would feel that way, and not be reactionary one way or the other. You just have to realize that these are patterns of life and you just go through them.
  • "Fell On Black Days" was like this ongoing fear I've had for years. It took me a long time to write that song. We've tried to do three different versions with that title, and none of them have ever worked," he said. "It's a feeling that everyone gets. You're happy with your life, everything's going well, things are exciting - when all of a sudden you realize you're unhappy in the extreme, to the point of being really, really scared. There's no particular event you can pin the feeling down to, it's just that you realize one day that everything in your life is fucked!
  • "The Day I Tried to Live" has nothing to do with suicide. It's much more meant to be like everyman's story. In spite of how most people present themselves, they probably struggle to feel comfortable or normal around other people, to feel as if they fit in. Everybody wants to and tries to. That's what that song is about. And "Like Suicide" is just a title. It's not about suicide at all.
  • I don't think anyone can safely resolve that's why Kurt Cobain killed himself [for getting hassled by people]. I mean, I don't really bother theorising on suicides, but I'm sure it was more than that. It was common knowledge that Kurt had a serious fucking health problem and he had it for years, well before he was ever famous. Whenever people talk about drugs and death, they put Kurt in a category of drug death, which is not the case. The fact that he was taking drugs was also based on the fact that he had serious health problems that nobody could seem to help him out with. Drugs were one way of relieving pain. I'm sure there were also problems with the fact that he couldn't go anywhere. He felt self-conscious about being a teen idol, which was something he didn't want to be. And there was always that issue that he was sick - and that didn't necessarily have to do with drugs or the fact that he was famous. It all points to something else. It wasn't just: this guy's a heroin addict and it made him crazy and he killed himself. Or: this guy gets bothered by teenagers and he hates it so he killed himself. That's probably the most romantic view, but it's not the most real view. You don't know what drives somebody to do that, but if I ever committed suicide, I would do it in a way that meant no one ever knew that it was suicide - because to me, the biggest fear of killing myself would be what it would do to my friends and family. If things are fucked enough that I want to kill myself, the last thing I want to do is go out and really fucking hurt a bunch of other people.
  • Maybe Kurt [Cobain] meant it [to mention suicide in his lyrics]; maybe he didn't. We're never going to know. When Andy Wood died, there were tons of lyrics that he wrote that sort of alluded to, well, it's possible that it's going to happen. It's not likely I'm going to kill myself, but those lyrics are still there.

Request Magazine: And now we're back to suicide. Some months have passed now since Kurt [Cobain] killed himself. Judging from his suicide note, it seems as if he thought there was something that was being demanded of him by the music industry or fans or someone, that he either couldn't or didn't want to deliver.

  • Cornell: I wouldn't even bother trying to guess. I'm not going to understand it no matter how hard I try. I understand being suicidal, but not for the reasons that I ever would be, and it would likely have nothing to do with anybody else. Therefore, it just becomes a waste of time. I don't really think its going to help anything for people to sit around and theorize how this guy who really didn't talk much to anybody felt or why he did what he did. Maybe it had nothing to do with anything. Maybe it was just a smoke screen. Somebody who is going to be taking a lot of drugs and is going to be suicidal, you can bet there's going to be lots of smoke screens. Or maybe that's entirely what it was. We'll never know.
  • I've had close friends who were on the verge of having nervous breakdowns or having one, and would walk into a room and be together. I think everyone struggles. And it's hard to be critical. I'm not somebody else, I'm not in anyone else's skin; I don't know what they are thinking or what they are going through or why they do what they do. I know what it feels like to be suicidal, and I know what it feels like to be hopeless. There is some point where I learnt enough about myself to know that I don't have the tolerance to create other hurdles as well. If I would have ever started taking drugs when I was younger, I would never have lived. I would have gone out quick. I don't have the tolerance to live in that emotional and physical pain and not have anything positive or good around me. I think that as far as the life that I have, I couldn't imagine it being any better. And even with that I still get down-spirited a lot, so... (laughs). If I look at it that way, I wouldn't want to make it any worse. **"Interview with Metal Hammer, October 1996". 
  • There was a time in the middle of my depression when I basically stopped eating. I wasn’t doing it to lose weight or anything — I just forgot to eat. I got down to 145 pounds, which is pretty skinny. I'm 6'3". And then I read an article in a magazine by a doctor talking about his experiences with anorexia, and everything started to make sense — the aches in the joints, the headaches, the way my bones felt as if I could bend them with my hands. I started eating again. That was much better.
  • I don’t really remember writing it [The Day I Tried To Live]. I vaguely remember the verse. It was based on a tuning that Ben Shepherd had came up with. Lyrically, it was one of those songs that I thought everyone could connect with. ‘Fell On Black Days’ is maybe a sister song to it. It’s this feeling that could come over anyone, and has probably happened to everyone. ‘Fell On Black Days’ is the feeling of waking up one day and realizing you’re not happy with your life. Nothing happened, there was no emergency, no accident, you don’t know what happened. You were happy, and one day you just aren’t, and you have to try to figure that out.

With ‘The Day I Tried To Live,’ the attitude I was trying to convey was that thing that I think everyone goes through where you wake up in the morning and you just don’t know how you are going to get through the day, and you kind of just talk yourself into it. You may go through different moments of hopelessness and wanting to give up, or wanting to just get back into bed and say f— it, but you convince yourself you’re going to do it again. And maybe this is the last time you’re going to do it, but it’s once more around.

  • Rolling Stone: What was your headspace at the time of Superunknown? A lot of the lyrics are dark.
  • Cornell: I don't know if I would say I was in a particularly dark or moody headspace more than other times. I feel the lyrics have to be born from the music. Or if I had a lyrical idea, separate from Soundgarden music, I knew if it would work with the band because it tended to reflect what the music was and what the feeling of the music was – which was usually somewhat dark and somber or moody, or over-the-top, visceral, aggressive angry.

Rolling Stone: So it wasn't an especially dark time?

  • Cornell: No, not that I remember. No more than usual. I think that I always struggled with depression and isolation, so those could come out. I think that the mood of Seattle to me, and the way that I always interpreted that mood was something that was always a little bit introspective and dark. And I wouldn't say "depressing," but introspective in a way that could be moodier and darker.

On being anti-social[edit]

  • Every time I know we have to go out on tour, there’s about three or four weeks where I’m terrified—where I start thinking: That’s not me. I’m not Freddie Mercury. Then I go out onstage and it’s like diving into the cold Puget Sound after spending five weeks in Hawaii—there’s a shock to the system, but the fear goes away. You get used to it, which is pretty cool, because if I stopped performing, I could just disappear and end up being some weird chattering man that walks the streets in rags, staring only at the pavement. At first you rationalize that going to a club where people recognize you is a bad idea; then going to a neighborhood bar becomes a bad idea, too. Going to the grocery store becomes a bad idea. Answering the phone becomes a bad idea. Then every time the dog barks, you think the National Guard is on your roof ready to drill holes in the shingles and shoot at you. So I have to deal with the outside world on sort of a maintenance level—go out to a bar every so often and just be around people.
  • We're all a bit socially awkward in our band at the best of times, and while we're more comfortable with the fan thing now, it's still odd and slightly surreal. I have friends who are celebrities who're a lot more extrovert and social than me, and they can't lead a normal life because they're so recognisable. It's changed their lives a lot and they can't change it back.
  • I've always been really anti-social, and being relatively famous has just given me an excuse to go out even less. If I didn't play in Soundgarden I'd have no excuse for being the way I am. My friends and family would hate me, whereas now they probably feel sorry for me. Y'know, 'Poor kid, he can't come out because he gets hassled a lot.'

On religion[edit]

Request Magazine: Many of your songs, including new ones like "Black Hole 5un" and "Fourth of July," trade in dark, apocalyptic imagery. Does any of that flair for the dramatic come from your having grown Catholic?

  • Cornell: Yeah, I'm sure some of it does, but you wouldn't catch it in an entire song. Like "Jesus Christ Pose" people think is an angry religious reference, but it doesn't have a thing to do with that. That song was based entirely on seeing rock stars like Perry Farrell or some top model doing these photo shoots where they were the Christ figure with this stupid-ass crown of thorns and their arms out. It became fashionable to be the sort of persecuted-deity guy. It started to get annoying that peopie were trying to associate themselves with that, because they don't even know what it is, other than a symbol that a whole bunch of weak people deify.

Request Magazine: Did you attend Catholic school when you were young?

Cornell: Yeah, grades one through seven. I got the whole thing. Me and my sister got kicked out of Catholic school when I was in seventh grade and she was in eighth grade. Actually, our mom pulled us out because we were about to get kicked out for the reason that we were both too inquisitive. That's kind of a testament to our mom, who allowed us enough space to kind of question shit. With a religion like that, it's not designed for anyone to question. Being young people who have a natural curiosity and half a brain, you're going to start finding inconsistencies, which there are tons of in organized religion. We both sort of made it clear in classroom situations that we didn't get it. "Explain this to me." And they couldn't, so we started creating a lot of problems.

Request Magazine: Have you put your religious training behind you, or is it something you still think about a lot?

Cornell: No, it isn't. I feel sorry for the people who honestly swallow it. To me they're fish. I don't wanna be a fish.

  • I don't follow any particular one [religion]. Ultimately I think I'm sort of a freethinker and kind of open. So many bad things–as well as good things–have happened based on people just sort of blindly following religion that I kind of feel like I want to stay away from any type of specific denomination or any religion period. If for no other reason than just that. I don't want to be involved with anything or condone any school of thought that at some point and in some way causes the death of innocent people, or tragedies where initial fantastic ideas [are] distorted. Like the life, for example, of Jesus is well-documented. It's corroborated by different people, who had different backgrounds, and different levels of education. And they wrote about it. We know that this guy existed, and we know pretty much what he said, and it's pretty simple. Everything from that point on in terms of wars and fighting over land and territories and religious things, none of that was even included in anything he said. His message was pretty simple, be really nice to each other and everything will be okay.

About Chris Cornell[edit]

  • Chris has a very penetrating and unique artistic vision that, when melded with ours, makes for a unique band chemistry. It's such a different vibe than any of us has ever experienced before. There's a great deal of camaraderie.
    • Tom Morello – Guitarist from Audioslave/Rage Against The Machine.
  • I really like Chris' records and I think he's the best singer that we've got on the planet. I first met Chris when I moved to Seattle, and we started hanging around. I didn't know what musicians did with their life, and I quickly realized that what he did on a Friday night was to get a 12-pack of shitty beer and chase his dog around on the mud for four hours in the forest. That was about an exciting an epiphany as I had! I haven't seen him in town for a while, but I have taken over the whole dog-chasing practice – me and my Hawaiian mutt. The beer's gotten slightly better too.
  • One of the first people I met outside of the group [Pearl Jam] was this next human and I had no idea how he would affect my life and my views on music and my views on friendship and what a big impact he would have. These guys [the other members of Pearl Jam] know him much longer than me and his impact is profound. I'd like to introduce with great pleasure my old neighbor, Chris Cornell.
  • Ed [Eddie Vedder] was super, super shy. Chris took him out for beers and told him stories. He was like, "Hey, welcome to Seattle. I love Jeff [Ament] and Stone [Gossard]. I give you my blessing." From then on he was more relaxed. It was one of the coolest things I saw Chris do.
  • Chris was that kind of a guy. Most of us in Seattle have always been pretty supportive of one another. There wasn't a lot of taking potshots or trying to derail each other. It was mutual admiration. And that's a powerful thing for Chris to do, but he loved those guys [from Pearl Jam].
  • In Seattle, there's a sense of community that's not competitive. It's very enlightened, if you ask me. Chris Cornell could have shut Eddie [Vedder] out and said, "No, Soundgarden gets all the glory now". But he got up onstage with the newcomer and built his confidence. It helped Eddie grow those wings pretty fast.
  • Chris represented a strong strain running through our whole town – he was always so honest, from the moment I met him. I share a lot of the issues Chris communicated in his songwriting. And there's a power in sharing your weakness with the people who need to hear that, so they can consider, 'Fuck, that guy's dealing with it.' You don't feel so alone. he was the last guy in the world I thought that [suicide] would happen to. That's not the way that book was supposed to end. And it was not the way that book was going. Cornell always had it, the same thing as when I saw Layne [Staley] for the first time – the commitment to take that ride. There was something that I recognized and aspired to – to have your own voice and sound. Nobody else sounds like that guy. Nobody will. There is a space now and forever empty because of that. It's never going to make sense. It's never going to feel right. And it's always going to hurt.
  • I’ve always said that Chris was the greatest songwriter to ever come out of Seattle. Jimi Hendrix could play the guitar like crazy, but Chris had the song-writing chops that we all sort of hoped to get to at different points in our songwriting careers. He had a way he could wrap a melody around odd time signatures and weird parts and make them catchy. He was a beautiful wordsmith. If you look at his lyrics, he obviously was processing his pain and depression, and all of those things. I think that’s part of what people, myself included, responded to when he was singing. With the songwriting he had that voice, there’s not too many people that have that many options with their voice. He could do a lot of different things with it, and have a lot of different characters in that voice. I feel so lucky that I got to be in a project with him, got to hang out with him, and just sort of witness his greatness.
  • That’s really tough to look at that right now, since I was just at that funeral. Rest in peace Chris. He was such a good dude, and was very instrumental in me being able to play on a legitimate record. Temple of the Dog was the first thing I ever played on in terms of a record. They were his songs, and he was super accommodating, and he was really cool to Ed [Eddie Vedder] and I when we first started. When Ed came here [Seattle], there was a lot of pushback, like this guy is from San Diego, and people were kind of dicks to him, I was kind of pissed about that. Chris was not that way, he was very inviting, he took him out for beers, they went hiking. Same with me, but I was from here. He made Ed loosen up, and invited him in the scene, which he didn’t have to do. He could have went, ‘Look I’m fucking Chris Cornell. I’m the guy.’ He wasn’t, he was very accommodating, and very nice, he was always that way with me. I love him, and I’ll miss him dearly.
  • Sometimes it's hard to concentrate these days. I was thinking about the history of this building and the Bowie history. So I started to think about that and my mind began to wander. It's not a good...So I haven't really been talking about some things and I kind of... now it feels like it's conspicuous because I lost a really close friend of mine, somebody who...I'll say this too, I grew up as 4 boys, 4 brothers and I lost my brother 2 years ago tragically like that in an accident and after that and losing a few other people, I'm not good at it, meaning I'm not...I have not been willing to accept the reality and that's just how I'm dealing with it (applause starts). No, no, no, no. So I want to be there for the family, be there for the community, be there for my brothers in my band, certainly the brothers in his band. But these things will take time but my friend is going to be gone forever and I will just have to...These things take time and I just want to send this out to everyone who was affected by it and they all back home and here appreciate it so deeply the support and the good thoughts of a man who was a ... you know he wasn't just a friend he was someone I looked up to like my older brother. About two days after the news, I think it was the second night we were sleeping in this little cabin near the water, a place he would've loved. And all these memories started coming in about 1:30am like woke me up. Like big memories, memories I would think about all the time. Like the memories were big muscles. And then I couldn't stop the memories. And trying to sleep it was like if the neighbors had the music playing and you couldn't stop it. But then it was fine because then it got into little memories. It just kept going and going and going. And I realized how lucky I was to have hours worth of...you know if each of these memories was quick and I had hours of them. How fortunate was I?! And I didn't want to be sad, wanted to be grateful not sad. I'm still thinking about those memories and I will live with those memories in my heart and I will...love him forever.
  • Chris was a friend for many years, and an incredible artist, a wonderful human being. I’ve always been inspired by his work ethic and talent, and his band Soundgarden, they were a big influence on us. It’s obviously very sad, I still don’t really know how to really discuss it personally, but I think at this point it’s time to maybe focus on the type of man he was, and the type of human being, and the type of artist. And [his] incredible depth. Our bands helped each other in the early days, we were all under the same roof with Susan Silver managing them, Kelly Curtis managing Mother Love Bone and then Pearl Jam, and they jointly managed us. We were all in the same little office above The Central Tavern, and that was the home base. I’m going to miss him immensely, but I also celebrate his life and his life’s work.

Ann [Wilson] called me and said she was thinking about doing something for our friend [the tribute to Chris Cornell during the 2018 Rock and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony], and asked me if I would join her. Anytime she calls I’m there, and if it’s for Chris, of course, absolutely.

  • Chris was my friend and he was at the very heart of the Seattle music scene and beyond. I miss him, but I realized that he went as far as he could in this world with his soul. He couldn’t go any farther.
  • Ann Wilson talking about Chris Cornell at the press room of the Rock and Hall of Fame induction ceremony, on April 18, 2018. **. Ann Wilson of Heart speaks backstage at Rock Hall induction. YouTube (April 14, 2018).

External links[edit]

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